Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2005 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan,
One marine's words
I don't know if the war in Iraq is ultimately unwinnable, but
what I do know makes me skeptical of those who say so.
I do know that since Vietnam, liberals have viewed every
exercise of American military power (with the exception of those undertaken
by Bill Clinton) as preludes to disaster. The very first question Ronald
Reagan was asked at his first presidential press conference concerned El
Salvador. The question: Did he think it was going to turn into another
Vietnam? Democrats invoked Vietnam with every other sentence during the long
and nasty controversy about aiding the resistance in Nicaragua. More
recently, just days into the Afghanistan war, The New York Times ran a
front-page lament calling that conflict a new "quagmire."
Liberals seem always to believe that America will lose its wars,
and when it doesn't, that it should.
It is obviously deeply painful to contemplate the more than
2,000 American dead, and many others gravely injured in Iraq. And charities
like Fisher House (www.fisherhouse.org) welcome concrete demonstrations of
Americans' concern for military families. But one does not sense that
members of the military share the belief so widespread in the press and
Congress that the Iraq war is going very badly and that the original
decision to fight was a mistake.
One Marine, Sgt. Todd Bowers, who did two tours in Iraq,
described the attitude of many press types. "They didn't want to talk to
us." Why? I asked. "Because we were gung-ho for the mission." Bowers, who
was saved from grievous injury when a bullet lodged in the sight of his
rifle (a sight his father had purchased for him), is chary about the press.
In his first tour, he noticed that members of the press were
reluctant to photograph Iraqis laughing, giving the thumbs up sign, or
cheering. Yet Bowers saw plenty that would have made fine snapshots. In
Baghdad, Al Kut and Al-Nasiriyah, Bowers reported no signs of anti-American
feeling at all among Iraqis.
Fallujah, of course, was different, as the city was a hotbed of
terrorism, and the battle of Fallujah was one of the fiercest engagements of
the war. During the battle, Bowers found himself sharing a ride with an
embedded reporter for the AP. He was asked what he thought of the
destruction. Bowers responded that it was "Incredible, overwhelming. But it
definitely had to be done." He also stressed that because the enemy had
fought so dirty, tough calls had to be made. Later, he saw himself quoted in
newspapers around the country to the effect that the destruction was
"overwhelming" as if he could not cope. He had also made some anodyne
remarks about rebuilding the damaged areas of the city, and responded "Where
to begin?" when asked about the plans. He was speaking of the water
treatment plants, medical facilities, and schools American forces were about
to help build, but his comments were offered as evidence of the futility of
the situation -- the very opposite of this eager Marine's intent.
There was plenty of progress to report, if the press had been
interested. When the battle of Fallujah was over, the Marines set up a
humanitarian relief station in an abandoned amusement park. Together with
Iraqis locally hired and trained for the purpose and with an assist from the
Iraqi ministry of the interior, they distributed rice, flour, medical
supplies, baby formula, and other necessities to thousands of Iraqis. For
six weeks, Bowers reports, the distribution went beautifully, "like a
well-oiled machine." Not worth a story, apparently. Only when something went
wrong did the press see something worth reporting. A small group of Iraqis
were turned away from the food distribution point, though they had been
waiting in line for hours. They were given vouchers and told they could come
to the front of the line the next morning when supplies would be
replenished. These few unhappy souls were then besieged by press types eager
to tell their story.
At the same site, the Marines had repaired an old Ferris wheel.
The motor was dead, but when two Marines pushed and pulled by hand they
could get the thing turning to give rides to the children of the Iraqi
employees. They did so for hours on end. A photographer from a large
American media company watched impassively. "Why don't you take a picture of
this?" demanded one Marine. The photographer snorted, "That's not my job."
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